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UN GA reaffirms strong support for Kimberley Process Certification Scheme aimed at ensuring diamonds 'conflict free'

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Sixty-fourth General Assembly
63rd Meeting (AM)

Text Recognizes 'Devastating' Impact of Conflicts Fuelled by Illicit Trade, Says Scheme Can Help Ensure Effective Implementation of Security Council Sanctions

Recognizing the devastating impact of conflicts fuelledby the illicit diamond trade and the gross human rights violations that have been perpetrated in such conflicts, the General Assembly today adopted a consensus resolution reaffirming its strong support for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which imposes strict requirements on rough diamond shipments to certify them as "conflict free".

Adoption of the six-page text was prolonged by lengthy debate after the Syrian delegate objected to wording in operative paragraph 23 of the text which notes that Israel has been selected 2010 Chair of the Kimberley Process, a 49-member (75 countries) initiative to stem the flow of diamonds used by rebels to finance wars against Governments. He requested deletion of the words " Israel as Chair", saying that the rest of the sentence should remain unchanged.

The Assembly suspended its debate for consultations after delegates of Sweden, Israel, Jamaica, United States, Peru and Canada challenged the idea, and asked for clarity on what, then, the Assembly would be voting either for or against.

After the recess -- and consultations with the Legal Office -- General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki, of Libya, clarified that Syria had requested a separate vote on part of paragraph 23 of the text, pursuant to Rule 89 of the Rules of Procedure, which was a sovereign right of any Member State.

Pursuant to that request, the Assembly would hold a separate vote on the words in question, he explained. Under that vote, "yes" meant that the words would stay in the draft. "No" meant that the words would be deleted and the General Assembly then would take action on the draft resolution as a whole.

The Assembly then decided, in a recorded vote of 90 in favour to 6 opposed (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Somalia) with 18 abstentions, to maintain the wording of operative paragraph 23 in the resolution (Annex). Immediately following that action, it adopted by consensus the entire resolution, which had been introduced by the Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy of Namibia, and Chair of the Kimberley Process.

By the text -- entitled "The role of diamonds in fuelling conflict: breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts" -- the Assembly recognized that the Certification Scheme could help ensure effective implementation of Security Council resolutions containing sanctions on trade in conflict diamonds, and act as a mechanism for the prevention of future conflicts. It called for the full implementation of existing Council measures targeting the illicit trade in rough diamonds, particularly conflict diamonds that play a role in fuelling conflict.

Among other provisions, the Assembly welcomed the adoption of new guidelines pertaining to implementation and enforcement to enhance the capacity of the Kimberley Process in guiding national authorities to address enforcement issues, such as fraudulent certificates, shipments of suspicious origin and exchange of information in cases of infringement.

It also noted, with appreciation, the Kimberley Process's cooperation with the United Nations on the issue of diamonds from Côte d'Ivoire, based on reports by the United Nations Group of Experts on Côte d'Ivoire, established by the Council in resolution 1584 (2005). It encouraged continued cooperation, with a view to meeting preconditions for lifting sanctions on the trade of rough diamonds from that country. Acknowledging the Processes' adoption of a plan to strengthen the internal controls of Guinea, the Assembly also welcomed Liberia's commitment to host a meeting to foster regional cooperation in rough diamond controls.

Several delegations took the floor after adoption to explain their positions and air concerns about omissions to the text.

Israel's delegate thanked all delegations that had warmly welcomed his country's initiation, in January, as Chair of the Kimberley Process. He regretted efforts to use such important issues to promote a politicized agenda, rather than any real worry over blood diamonds, the real issue at stake. "The world is so lucky to have a real Kimberley Process, where real concerns are met," he said. Israel, as incoming Chair, was prepared to assume greater responsibility in the effective implementation of the Process.

Also explaining his position, Sweden's delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, regretted that the election of the new Chair and Vice Chair of the Kimberley Process had not been welcomed in accordance with customary practice. The trend to politicize the issue might undermine the work of fuelling development rather than conflict. As for the resolution, he regretted that no reference had been made to Zimbabwe's challenge in implementing the process. There was an action plan to address the concerns of the review mission, which had found significant non-compliance in Zimbabwe with the Scheme's minimum requirements.

Similarly, Switzerland's delegate was disappointed at the thrust of the resolution and feared that omitting a reference to Zimbabwe would damage the image of the Kimberley Process, making its future work difficult. Also, the role of the private sector and civil society had not been reflected adequately. Although her Government had joined consensus, it had done so with the uneasy feeling that the Assembly had not lived up to its responsibilities.

The United States representative expressed serious concerns about Zimbabwe's non-compliance with the minimum requirements of the Kimberly Process, particularly related to smuggling and grave violence in and around the Marange diamond fields. The United States also looked to Zimbabwe's neighbours, international trading centres, and the diamond industry to redouble their efforts against illicit diamonds from the Marange region.

The representative of Zimbabwe, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, commented on what he called a "charade" by countries deeming themselves to be guarantors of the Process, who had referred to Zimbabwe's supposed non-compliance with the mechanism. Zimbabwe was a victim. Diamonds were being smuggled out of the country, finding their way into markets in Israel, Canada, Antwerp, and the United States. Thus, when talking of compliance, let it be discussed from a global perspective and not simply as Zimbabwe's problem.

Syria's delegate, explaining his position after action, said the goal of the resolution was to prevent illicit transactions in rough diamonds, as well as the illicit exploitation of wealth through transnational activities. He had spoken out against appointing Israel as Chair, because such a choice would promote misunderstanding of the noble objectives contained in the resolution's title. He was surprised that the Assembly would adopt a text that contradicted a report of another important United Nations body, namely, the Group of Experts dealing with the illicit diamond trade in Côte d'Ivoire.

Also today, the Assembly decided to extend the work of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to 18 December. In view of that decision, it would postpone the Assembly's date of recess from 15 December to 22 December. Further, it decided to postpone until Wednesday, 16 December, consideration of two other draft resolutions, one on Assistance to the Palestinian people, and the other on the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which it was slated to take up today.

Also speaking before action were the representatives of Botswana, Canada and Israel.

The Observer of the European Community also spoke.

Also speaking in explanation of position after action were the representatives of Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Venezuela.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 16 December, to consider draft resolutions on Assistance to the Palestinian people, and on the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.